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Mary Burke brings gubernatorial campaign message to Delavan

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Frank Schultz
April 5, 2014

DELAVAN—If Mary Burke is going to unseat Gov. Scott Walker, she will have to appeal to the middle—the kind of voters who say they vote for the person, not the party.

Burke acknowledged to a Gazette reporter Friday night in Delavan that those swing voters are crucial to victory in November.

Burke later told Walworth County Democrats assembled at Lake Lawn Lodge that it would be a close race.

Burke told The Gazette it's important to appeal to the nearly 10,000 voters in Walworth County who turned out for Barack Obama in 2012 but didn't vote when Walker defeated Tom Barrett in 2010.

Asked how she plans to do that, Burke said she would apply her problem-solving approach to helping people get to know her.

“The way I approach things is, let's make sure we focus on the issues that matter most to people in Wisconsin, to middle class families. Then let's put all of the options out on the table. I don't care if they're Democratic or Republican ideas. Let's pick the best ones, and let's move forward. That's how we're going to grow Wisconsin's economy,” Burke said

An example of that approach, perhaps, was her reaction to a question of whether she as governor would help if Janesville came up with a redevelopment plan for its vacant General Motors plant.

“Absolutely,” she said, launching into her recently released jobs plan.

In any community where the unemployment rate is 25 percent higher than the state average, she would immediately form a task force of state and local people to get the rate down, she said.

“And we should put all the options out on the table, and the state needs to be a good partner in doing that, and the governor needs to provide the leadership.”

Burke's campaign approach seems to be good Mary/tough Mary. Her stump speech to about 60 Democratic Party members stressed practical solutions to a brighter economic future while she swung freely at Walker.

“I'm a business executive. I approach things as how we're going to solve problems. And I do believe that we can do a lot better in this state, that we have to do things that favor and help grow and strengthen the middle class, and right now I see too much tax cuts that benefit those who are wealthy, those at the top, and corporations.” she told the crowd.

The state should focus on getting people the educations they need to compete for jobs and in helping businesses get started and grow, said the Harvard Business School graduate who worked nine years in her family's business, Trek Bicycle.

Walker also says he wants to boost business and education for jobs.

With a frozen Delavan Lake framed in picture windows behind her, Burke said the problem with Wisconsin's economy is lack of leadership. She jabbed at Walker:

“Leadership is not when you divide people and you pit them against each other. Leadership is when you bring people together. That's how we do our best work. And leadership puts people and problem-solving ahead of politics and special interests …

“We have a governor who is more focused on his own career than he is with putting people back to work. And he is more focused on destroying education than he is on improving it,” she said.

“I have a game plan for winning. I have a team that knows how to win. I am committed to raising the type of money that is going to be needed to get my message out,” she said.

“Walker's game plan is to raise tens of millions of dollars from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires and buy this election,” she said, noting the Republican Governor's Association has already begun advertising against her.

Whether jabs at Walker and the practical-solutions rhetoric will appeal to most voters remains to be seen, but there might be a danger if Burke steers too far to the center. At least, the Republican Governors Association hopes so.

The association issued a statement Friday suggesting that “big labor” is selling out its members by endorsing Burke, who is rich and whose family business outsourced jobs to China.

Burke favors restoring collective bargaining rights to public sector employees that were stripped by the Repubilcans' Act 10, but she but does not favor changing the part of law that makes those workers them pay more for health insurance and contribute to their pension fund, the association noted in its attempt to divide the coalition that Burke hopes to build.

Burke predicted the other side will come at her with “every lie and dirty trick in the book,” and she said if they get tough, she will get tougher. 

She ended her speech like this: “I have only one message for Scott Walker: Game on.”



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